How Coffee Can Improve Guest Experience

How Coffee Can Improve Guest Experience

What hotelier doesn't want to?

  • Instantly increase your perceived value/quality rating (especially low to mid tier properties).
  • Create long lasting memories of your hotel with guests.
  • Immediately improve the mood of guests at the critical 'guest checkout time'.

Don't underestimate the power of smell to make an indelible impression on guests that can last a lifetime. The power of the smell to evoke and strengthen memories is well proven in both scientific and psychological studies.

Smell affects 75% of our daily emotions, and there is a very close connection between the olfactory glands and our limbic system which controls emotion and memories. 

So if smell is such a powerful and proven way to evoke emotion why do most hotels and especially motels still put crappy instant coffee sachets in their rooms?

In this article I will go present a range of options for deploying coffee in your hotel with all the advantages and disadvantages.

In Room

Plunger Coffee

I can actually remember specifically which hotels I have stayed at which provided plunger coffee for free. Why? Because firstly I was delighted and surprised with their generosity, and secondly the smell and aroma of the plunger coffee was a powerful reinforcer of those feelings.

Providing free plunger coffee in rooms is a fantastic way to put your guests in an incredibly good mood just before checkout. Because there are still hotels that think plunger coffee should be a mini bar item, there is plenty of gratitude from guests for making this complimentary.

Free plunger coffee is an easy and effective guest experience improvement strategy if you are a smaller hotel without a cafe or restaurant - and want to make a great impression. This is something every property can deploy right now with minimal up front investment.

Plunger coffee can be provided sealed in bags or even replaced daily (freshly ground) in jars to really amaze your guests. While bags will be more expensive, they are probably going to be better received than simply replenishing a jar of ground coffee. The advantage of the coffee jar is that guests are not able to take the plunger packet home with them!

If you run a B&B or smaller boutique hotel then placing the ground coffee in a jar with notes on the coffee and words to the effect of "freshly ground on premises and replaced daily" will do wonders. If you can find a local coffee roaster to supply the beans then mention this.

You can get away with these more personal touches in a boutique property that wouldn't feel right in a larger business grade hotel.

Just one tip—remember to have housekeeping replace the plunger sachets on a daily basis if it's being used. Don't be stingy and just provide one packet per stay. If guests are paying for each night, they deserve the same standards and amenities on each day.


The problem with offering coffee pots in hotel rooms is that they have an incredibly bad reputation.

That's because they are commonly used to brew methamphetamine. And if not methamphetamine then who knows what else they have been used for.

Installing coffee pots in your motel or hotel room is simply asking for trouble and should be avoided for these reasons.

Coffee Sachets

But don't overlook the humble instant coffee sachet either. Choosing a really good quality freeze dried instant coffee is also very important for those that don't like or know how to make plunger coffee. Many people are rushed when they are checking out in the morning and just want convenience.

In the USA - Nescafe Tasters Choice has quality freeze dried in a range of flavours such as House Blend, Colombian and Hazelnut to mix things up. 

In Australia and New Zealand the premium instant coffee of choice is Nescafe Gold or Moccona. Every country has quality freeze dried coffee available, so please ditch that powdered instant coffee which has no aroma and tastes like sawdust. It has no place in any civilised society!

Coffee in a Bag

Alternatively, there are many fantastic "Coffee in a bag" options which guests will really appreciate (which are cheaper and easier to use than a coffee plunger).

This also means less hassle for housekeeping having to clean and sterilise the coffee plunger in every room, which can get old very quickly.

Coffee Capsule Machines

Capsule coffee machines like Nespresso™ or Keurig™ seem like a good option because of their consistency and fun factor. The downside is that guests not familiar with capsule machines can get confused, so making your own very clear laminated instructions for guests is critical.

There is a one big problem that needs to be addressed here though and that is perceived hygiene. Many guests will cringe at the thought of using a coffee machine that has perhaps not been properly cleaned. There is no real way to know when the coffee machine was last cleaned (and I mean cleaned properly).

And what about the water in the machine? How am I supposed to replenish the water and did the last guest use less than sanitary means to fill it up? All of these are going through my mind as I wrestle with the question of whether I want to spend 5 minutes prepping that machine just to make a cup of coffee.

Having said that, they are becoming more and more popular for a good reason—some guests really think they need it because they consider having a coffee in the morning (before they get dressed) to be a fundamental human need.

In House


What is the one of the most wonderful and universally adored smells known to man? Freshly ground coffee beans and freshly brewing coffee.

There is nothing nicer than that smell of fresh coffee in the morning. It is enhanced even further with the smell of freshly baked bread or croissants...

If you can engineer a way to have your reception and lobby area smelling like coffee, not only will guests be in a good mood when they checkout - there is a very good chance they will grab a coffee takeaway and probably breakfast on the run too.

The most practical tip here is to consider grinding the coffee beans somewhere where that smell is going to permeate the reception area. In any case, freshly grinding beans in small batches is a wonderful way to enhance the overall aroma and quality of coffee.

Another idea is to have an automatic coffee machine somewhere in the reception area where free or reasonably priced coffee can be self-served by guests 24 hours a day. This continual use of the coffee machine (where the coffee machine grinds the beans with each serve) permeates the wonderful aroma of coffee throughout the lobby area.

Instead of putting domestic grade Nespresso machine in every hotel room, just invest in a commercial grade automated coffee machine and put it in the reception area. That is of course, unless you have a cafe which would cannibalise those sales.

Then all you need to do is place a sign in the room telling guests exactly where they can find the coffee machine, and when it is available (if not 24 hours). 

But which option do guests really prefer? Complimentary coffee in the lobby or an in-room coffee machine?

A popular travel blogger asked this very question and the results were 63% who preferred the free lobby coffee over in-room from 877 votes*.

*Source: Number of votes and results correct at time of publishing but may change.

Takeaway Coffee

If you have a cafe or restaurant in your hotel or motel, you are going to sell lots of takeaway coffee in the morning. If you aren't—there is probably something wrong with the coffee!

Nothing will setup a guest for a great day and pleasant reminder of how great your hotel is than an amazing coffee in the morning.

It is beyond this post to go into all the parameters that make for amazing coffee but just ask yourself this one question. Is our coffee amazing or just ordinary? Do guests rave about how good your coffee is or does it barely get a mention?

One of the most logistically difficult aspects to making great coffee is that it depends on who makes it. All staff who are in a position to make coffee in the morning should be trained as baristas—it's as simple as that.

The coffee beans should be freshly roasted (delivered to your hotel on a weekly basis) and freshly ground in small batches to maximise the aroma of the coffee (both for the guest and the surrounding room).

Consider using a local artisan coffee roaster and letting guests know you only use gourmet coffee beans and support local suppliers.

There are now lots of "Coffee Consultants" who will be happy to visit your hotel and both give advice and train staff. This is a fantastic investment and will also be appreciated by staff who can continue to develop their hospitality skills.

Just a final tip on serving Takeaway coffee in terms of the guest experience. Have your staff trained to ask how many sugars guests want in their coffee and do it for them. There is nothing more annoying and awkward than having to stir in a some sugar (invariably spilling some on the counter) and then having nowhere to put the dirty spoon.

And make sure staff can not only make great coffee—but efficiently. Guests in the morning when checking out have appointments, flights to catch and business to attend. They can't wait ten minutes for the coffee machine to warm up—so add it to the list of preparations before actually opening in the morning.


Providing amazing coffee both in-room and in-house is what we call a "Passive" guest experience improvement. It will automatically and magically improve guest experience with little conscious effort from staff.

Do you have any other suggestions for improving the coffee guest experience in hotels? Please leave a comment below.

Chris Jack is the editor of Locus Focus and a professional hotel photographer based in Brisbane with over 20 years experience in digital marketing. He also hosts the weekly "Sharper Hotel Marketing" podcast.